Some people are befuddled over the 5 young American men who allegedly traveled to Pakistan to take up arms against American troops. The men have been described by high school friends as friendly, ordinary students of Muslim faith who bore no religious prejudice against Christians. People who know the men are shocked to learn that they had apparently pursued plans to join insurgents in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Of course, the underlying sentiment is this: How could such fine young Americans end up hating their country and its freedom and values?
Isn’t that the standard explanation as to why people in the Middle East commit acts of terrorism against the United States? Wasn’t that the official explanation for the 9/11 attacks?
Or there’s a variation, one that many pro-occupation supporters use even though it is not the official version provided by U.S. officials: The Muslims hate Christians and are on a jihad to kill them.
Such Americans just don’t get it. It’s not that those five young men hate America for its freedom and values. And it’s not because they hate Christians. According to the many people interviewed who know the men, there is not one iota of evidence to support either thesis.
Why can’t we just accept the simple fact: Those five young Americans traveled to Pakistan to take up arms against U.S. troops because the U.S. government is occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, killing, torturing, abusing, humiliating, and destroying people and property in the process?
You see, many Americans look at the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and say, “Our government is there to kill the terrorists. If it wasn’t there killing the terrorists, the terrorists would be coming to kill us here in the United States.”
The problem is that such Americans have it backwards. They think that the terrorism comes first, giving rise to the necessity for invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan to kill the terrorists before they come and kill more people in the United States.
Actually, it’s the other way around. U.S. interventionism comes first. For example, consider the brutal sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Consider also U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement to “Sixty Minutes” that the deaths of half-a-million children from the sanctions were “worth it.”
Those two things made people in the Middle East terribly angry. As year after year went by, with the death toll rising in Iraq, the anger began boiling over into rage. After all, there was nothing that anyone, including Americans, could do to bring the sanctions and continuing death toll to a halt. In fact, whenever an American was caught delivering humanitarian aid to the Iraqis in violation of the sanctions, he was prosecuted viciously by the U.S. government.
Moreover, fueling that fire of rage was the unconditional financial and military aid provided the Israeli government by the U.S. government, the deadly and illegal no-fly zones over Iraq, and the stationing of U.S. troops near Islamic holy lands.
The rage finally boiled over on September 11, 2001. Actually, it had boiled over long before that. In 1993, Ramzi Yousef committed a terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center. At his sentencing hearing, he angrily pointed not to America’s freedom and values but to U.S. foreign policy, including the brutal sanctions on Iraq that had killed, even up to that point (1993) countless Iraqi children..
The twisted part of all this is that the U.S. government used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to take the very types of intervention actions it had been doing before 9/11 — the things that gave rise to the anger and rage that had culminated in the terrorist attack in 1993 and then again on 9/11. By invading Iraq and Afghanistan, the government continued killing more and more people in that part of the world, arguably many more people than the pre-9-11 sanctions had killed.
There is one — and only one — way to restore a sense of normality to our country: Withdraw all U.S. troops from overseas, beginning with Iraq and Afghanistan. To think that the U.S. government can continue to kill people without incurring the risk of retaliation from people who sympathize with the victims of occupation is folly.